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Tannoy TS2.12 Active Subwoofer Review

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What if you pair the Tannoy with speakers more price compatible with it?

by Ed Selley Nov 24, 2013

  • Home AV review

    9,990

    Tannoy TS2.12 Active Subwoofer Review
    SRP: £600.00

    Introduction

    The more observant among you will recognise that the Tannoy TS2.12 has featured before. It underpinned the Tannoy Precision System that I reviewed and liked a great deal. In the context of sublime front speakers with significant bass extension and a centre speaker with significant bass extension in its own right, the TS2.12 - at 25% the cost of the front speakers was slightly outmatched. My conclusions suggested that if you wanted a multichannel set of Precisions, you might want to look at a beefier sub - indeed Tannoy themselves have launched the Definition sub that should be more than up to the challenge.

    Was this critique of the TS2.12 as much a factor of the circumstances in which it was tested? After all Tannoy has made some storming subwoofers over the years and at £650, the TS2.12 does represent a considerable piece of equipment for the asking price. What if you place the Tannoy in a system with speakers more price compatible with it? I heard the TS2.12 do enough interesting things during the Precision review that I thought it would be worth seeing what it could do. After all, it competes against a number of designs we are very fond of - does it bring something new to the party?

    Design

    Tannoy TS2.12 Design

    Tannoy took the decision to separate subwoofers from some of their speaker ranges a few years ago. The theory is sound enough - you can choose a subwoofer to suit the size of room, your bass proclivities and of course your budget. This means that Tannoy can also avoid criticism that they have built the ‘wrong’ sub for the range. As such with the TS Subwoofers, you have the option of the TS2.10 and larger TS2.12 seen here.

    The TS2.12 as the numerology might suggest is built around 12 inch drivers. These are mounted on either side of the cabinet and like some other designs that use this layout, one driver is powered by a single 500W class D amplifier while the other is a passive radiator. The advantages of this method are that you can increase the radiating area of the sub without the complexity (and size) of making a sub with a single large driver. Although this means that only one driver is actually ‘live’ you’d be pushed to describe the Tannoy as underpowered. Given that two sides of the TS2.12 are ‘active’ (in that they will react to a wall), it is perhaps as well that the cabinet is sealed as you can probably have too much of a good thing.

    As it is, the claimed figures are impressive. Tannoy claims 21Hz at -6db and mid-twenties appear entirely possible with a roll off lower than that. Crossover settings up to 150Hz are catered for and behaviour up to 100Hz at least seems benign. The minimum crossover setting of 50Hz is one of the reasons why the TS2.12 didn’t gel perfectly with the big Precision speakers but matched with product closer to the price of the Tannoy (especially standmounts) and it makes more sense.

    Tannoy TS2.12 Design
    The drivers themselves are doped paper type units with a substantial dust cap. Visually, it is impossible to differentiate between the active and passive driver (even pressing them in and out doesn’t give too much of a clue between them). In technology terms these aren’t enough to get excited about but each one feels solid and well damped. Tannoy provides covers for the drivers and given that these follow the line of the cabinet, I suspect that most people will keep them on. With both drivers side firing, the Tannoy presents a blank face to the front and doesn’t even have a visible running light - it is effectively a big black box.

    It is a very substantial black box though. The Cabinet feels extremely solid and doing the standard knuckle check on it suggests that the thickness and damping is very consistent across every surface which should in turn help the resonance and contribution from the cabinet itself to be very consistent. One minor consideration when trying to site the TS2.12 is that as there is no port and no other ‘lips’ or protrusions from the cabinet, you will need to get your arms all the way around it to move it - jockeys need not apply.

    The Tannoy is available in a black matte finish or a gloss black for an extra £100. As I’ve had the unusual circumstance of having both finishes in my front room, I can say that if it was my money, I’d go for the standard finish even if the speakers you are partnering it with are gloss black. With the grilles forming a substantial element of the visible part of the sub and styling that is best described as ‘functional’, there really isn’t much point in beautifying it. This is the difference between something being well built (which the Tannoy undoubtedly is) and being beautiful with it. Subs generally aren’t beautiful although REL’s T-7 is in this price category and it more aesthetically pleasing with it.

    Around the back, the Tannoy is usefully specified. As well as the expected volume and crossover controls, the TS2.12 has a fully analogue phase control - which even in these heady days of auto EQ can be a useful thing to have available if you are fine tuning for music use and the sub isn’t on the same basic axis as the front speakers. The other feature that deserves a mention is that the Tannoy is fitted with a switch that allows it to be left on all the time - an increasingly rare thing - and wonder of wonders, an auto on/off function that sits perfectly between being sensitive enough to tell when the amp has been switched on but not so sensitive that it also switches on when you open the fridge or turn a light on. Connections are limited to RCA but I’m sure this won’t be too much of an issue for most people.

    Tannoy claims 21Hz at -6db and mid-twenties appear entirely possible with a roll off lower than that.

    Setup

    The Tannoy has been used (and indeed reviewed) with Tannoy’s own Precison line of speakers but the bulk of this solo review was done with my own set of Mordaunt Short Mezzo 1’s and 5 centre. Amplification used was my Cambridge Audio 751R for the most part but a Pioneer SC-LX87 also made an appearance. Source equipment included a Cambridge Audio 752BD partnered with a Sky HD box and Netflix.

    Material used included Blu-ray and DVD with TV and on demand service in both 5.1 and stereo featuring heavily. Lossless FLAC and compressed audio were also supplied by my Lenovo T530 into the dedicated audio USB input of both AV receivers used in the review period.

    Sound Quality

    Taken out of the bearpit of trying to partner the fearsomely capable Precisions, the TS2.12 makes a more convincing proposition for itself. The first reason for this was entirely attributable to the laws of physics than anything else. With no substantial floorstanders at the front, I was able to get the Tannoy on axis with the front speakers and reduce the proximity of reflective surfaces to the side firing drivers. The difference isn’t so dramatic that I believe it would have ‘saved’ the TS2.12 if I’d been able to put it in the same place with the Precisions but it does have the effect of making the handover between speakers and sub (which is already easier at the higher point that the Mezzos prefer) that little bit more seamless and cohesive.

    This means that with my continued point of reference for bass and general LFE, Unstoppable, the Tannoy puts in an assured performance. The knack of generating believable weight to the runaway train is something that the Tannoy does well at - it is not simply about explosive weight to the sound but more sustained low end urge. Indeed, the Tannoy is extremely good at filling in the lower ranges of a soundtrack in a way that is unobtrusive but extremely effective. This comes into to its own with broadcast TV. The Tannoy simply fills the lower registers out in a smooth and appealing way. The tonal balance of the Tannoy is sufficiently neutral that coupled with the higher crossover point I used it with, it is impressively tricky to work out where speaker ends and subwoofer begins.

    Tannoy TS2.12
    the Tannoy is extremely good at filling in the lower ranges of a soundtrack in a way that is unobtrusive but extremely effective

    The sense of effortlessness is impressive and a useful demonstration of the considerable radiating area that the TS12.2 has at its disposal. There is a genuine sense of effortlessness in terms of air being moved that smaller long throw drivers can struggle to achieve. Truly subsonic performance is still a step too far for the Tannoy but it gets closer than a lot of its rivals do. The potent amplification means it avoids sounding strained while it does so.

    Everything thus far had been going the Tannoy’s way but further tests do reveal some limitations. Switching to music reveals a bit of a curate’s egg in terms of the Tannoy’s behaviour. The big analogue bass of Hidden Orchestra’s Archipelago is handled really well with the Tannoy giving that same effortless filling out that it does so well with broadcast TV. Faster bass like The bones of what you believe by Chvrches starts to show that the Tannoy is not quite as quick as it needs to be to really be to make this album truly enjoyable. You end up hearing a sort of ‘wuh-whoomp’ as the Mezzos produce the initial impact of the bass and the Tannoy fills in the bottom - after a short but agonising delay.

    To be clear, this is a stern test for any subwoofer and I’m not really a fan of using them for music. Nonetheless if you ask the REL T-7 to do this, even without using REL’s magic ‘Speakon’ connector, the T-7 is faster and cleaner than the Tannoy. With a system that has front speakers that make it down to 50Hz or so when run direct, I suspect that the performance without the Tannoy is going to be more engaging if not as deep.

    At the other end of the extreme, I popped the Blu-ray of Pacific Rim in for consideration. Now, to be clear, saying that Pacific Rim is somewhat bass heavy is like saying that Naga chillies have a certain piquancy or that John Candy was slightly overweight. There is a huge amount of bass and some of it is very congested. Nonetheless it is an enjoyable film and the Tannoy is not hugely happy about it. The calm detail and control that is present in less hysterical soundtracks is overwhelmed by huge swathes of powerful but somewhat ill-defined bass. Matters aren’t helped by the soundtrack featuring heavily in the LFE channel too which leads to some of the ‘two stage’ bass that you get with music listening. The Tannoy goes from being a subtle underpinning to the most noticeable part of the system. Backing the levels off helps - but the moment you go back to standard TV this means that settings are too low.

    Tannoy TS2.12
    ...it makes day to day listening a pleasure and does so with style.

    Conclusion

    7
    AVForumsSCORE
    OUT OF
    10

    Pros

    • Effortless low end extension
    • Solid build
    • Smooth and natural sound

    Cons

    • Some limitations with music
    • Can be unruly with serious LFE
    • Fairly sensitive to positioning
    You own this Total 1
    You want this Total 2
    You had this Total 0

    Tannoy TS2.12 Active Subwoofer Review

    So where does this leave the TS2.12? For large swathes of listening, this is an excellent subwoofer. It has plenty of power and an effortless presentation. If you want something that adds an unobtrusive but potent bottom octave to your system for a wide variety of material, this is one of the most calm and capable subwoofers out there anywhere near the price. If you feast on a diet of giant robots knocking the stuffing out of things or need to add properly convincing bass to music, the Tannoy starts to show some weaknesses though. This is not an ‘event’ subwoofer - it makes day to day listening a pleasure and does so with style. For full bore movie night, or an evening of two channel music, it has some limits which deny it true all-rounder status. This is a slightly rough diamond but the sparkle is there.


    The Rundown

    Sound Quality

    7

    Build Quality

    8

    Value For Money

    7

    Verdict

    7

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